Robert Lefkowitz: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Stockholm
Robert Lefkowitz is James B. Duke Professor of Medicine and Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry at the Duke University Medical Center. His group spent 15 difficult years developing techniques for labeling the receptors with radioactive drugs and then purifying the four different receptors that were known and thought to exist for adrenaline. In 1986 Bob and his team transformed the understanding of what had become known as G protein coupled receptors, when he and his colleagues cloned the gene for the beta2-adrenergic receptor.
Today, more than half of all prescription drug sales are of drugs that target either directly or indirectly the receptors discovered by Bob and his trainees. These include amongst many others beta blockers, angiotensin receptor blockers or ARBs and antihistamines. He has received numerous honors and awards, including the National Medal of Science, the Shaw Prize, the Albany Prize, and the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author with Randy Hall of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Stockholm: The Adrenaline Fueled Adventures of an Accidental Scientist.
In this conversation, Bob and I explore the important nature of mentoring in his success — and how he has in turn utilized mentoring to support so many colleagues and students. We discuss the importance of building careers around problems versus techniques and other key principles that effective mentors adopt. Plus, we explore the key of ownership of work and using fun as an indicator to follow.
- Success is rarely accidental. Most people with extraordinary accomplishments had outstanding mentors along the way.
- Teach people to build their careers around problems, not techniques.
- The crucial job of a mentor is to keep things in focus for the person you are mentoring — both in their current work and their careers.
- People achieve the most motivation when they have ownership over their work.
- A key measure of striking the right guidance between ownership and guidance is whether or not everybody is having fun.
- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Stockholm: The Adrenaline Fueled Adventures of an Accidental Scientist* by Robert Lefkowitz
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